Militants have reportedly blocked two food aid convoys of the International Committee of the Red Cross in southern Somalia. A local ICRC contractor said they fear the move is an attempt by al-Shabab to find reasons to ban the international agency’s operations in Somali regions under the militant group’s control.
Residents of the militant stronghold town of Baidoa in southern Somalia said they saw al-Shabab members transferring food aid from the ICRC trucks to their warehouses, Reuters reports. Local ICRC contractors have confirmed they were stopped by militants who said they wanted to check the quality of food aid carried by the convoy. Some of the contractors, however, doubted the real reason behind the militants’ move.
“Their claims of checking food quality are misleading. Their intention is very clear, they are looking for justifications to ban the agency like others before,” Reuters quotes a local ICRC contractor, who requested anonymity to discuss the subject.
The news agency says its sources in Nairobi, Kenya, have also confirmed the aid convoy blockades. Meanwhile, an ICRC spokesperson in Switzerland has declined to comment on the reported blockades in detail, Reuters adds.
Nicole Engelbrecht said ICRC negotiates with different parties in the conduct of its operations in Somalia and “does not wish to provide details about such negotiations and various stages of its operations.”
ICRC is among the few international aid agencies that have typically enjoyed good access into southern and central Somalia, which are largely under the control of al-Shabab. The militant group recently banned several aid groups, including some U.N. agencies, from operating in areas it controls.
Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.